Saturday, November 27, 2004

I just added a new ship module (fuel scoop) to Starship Tycoon.
Sales have been low lately, and I've been analysing why this is. As far as i can tell. 1.8% of people downloading the game buy it, but if I count in people not downloading direct from me I suspect its more like 0.9%
This is no good, so I took a look at how to improve on the conversion rate.
Its a tough thing to fix if you don't know WHY people decide not to buy the game. I'm guessing people think there isn't enough 'in' the game, so I'm trying to fix that by adding mroe content.
I also fixed a mistake where the game defaulted to novice difficulty.
I wish I had the enthusiasm to spend all day coing democracy, but I'm feeling a bit demotivated. the game is so complex it takes some energy to get coding. My next game will be simpler ;)
(probably not).

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Been busy updating Starship Tycoon (lowered the price for an experimental period and released an update to it), working on democracy and other stuff.
I got scammed by ebay,
I guess its my own fault. I didnt pay much attention to what I was buying, just looking for a cheap DVD boxed set. When it turns up, its clearly a pirate copy.
I notice all the other buyers from this guy leave positive feedback, even admitting its bootleg stuff.
This is crazy. This guy is ripping people off. Granted hes ripping off paramount, hardly a mom-and-pop firm, but its still not justifiable.
Ive left negative feedback, and raised a claim with paypal. I dont give up on things like this easily ;)
Hopefulyl I will at least inconvenience the guy, and maybe get my cash back.
The DVD playback quality is poor, and 1 disk is missing.
Dont buy bootleg DVDs, they arent worth it.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

After a lot of trawling the web looking for information on Data visualisation, I have come to the conclusion that nobody really studies abstract data visualisation in non-graph form.
For a simulation game, this is a real challenge. How do I present a vast amount of data to the player in an uncluttered and easy to use way?
I guess the nearest comparison to my game data-wise is something like SimCity. It has a vast amount of data, and its accessed in conventional ways using graphs and lists etc. SimCity gets away with this, because the whole screen isn't just data, it has a lovely 3D world you can play in as well.
This is also the method of choice for most political games. they represent the physical country in a 3D or isometric engine. The actual data is accessed through sub menus.
Now on my budget, I dont have the option to do a 3D world, but to be honest I am glad I don't.
One of the games I worked on (briefly) was Republic:The Revolution. This was a political power struggle game, with a vastly complex 3D world added in.
So superflous was the 3D world, they actually added a 2D top down view you could use instead.
In other words, the game itself was completely divorced from the 3D representation. All the 3D bit did was make the game take an extra 3 years and cost an extra x million dollars to make.
I'm glad I can't be tempted to just bung in a 3D world in the middle of the screen. It means I have to really think hard about interface design and game design.

Friday, November 19, 2004

just found out there isn't going to be a demo for Pirates!
This is insane. it could be good, but could be terrible. no way am I gambling £30 on that one. so thats another lost sale.
I only BOUGHT RCT3 because the demo amazed me, I wouldnt have considered it otherwise.
There probably wont be a Movies Demo either. Whats wrong with people? This isnt a movie or a book, its interactive software, how the hell do Ii know if its any good without interacting with it?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Haven't posted in a while.. been playing Half Life 2 like everyone else. its very good, got to a level with some 'horror' in it, which i find a bit tedious in games. Also still amazed at how much scope there is in Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. It's like a whole world building application. truly awesome.

I did some work on Democracy last night, added in some blurbs for all of the simulation data and added a few more links between policies and voters.
The game is getting slowly more playable, although lots to do graphically. I need to do one good demonstration backdrop for it so I can see if I'm happy with it as an art style.
I also need to sort out the load game code because that will be a real nightmare to write.
It's still far off being in a state to let even early testers play it, although I'm planning on introducing some testers much earlier than normal, so I can get gameplay feedback rather than just bug reports.

Friday, November 12, 2004

EA employees take company to court over overtime:

All I can say is...


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

This morning before I left for work I added a new option to Starship Tycoon, which was to allow the game to automatically pause when you dock a starship, and resume when setting a new course.
This feature has been requested by players, and will make it inot version 2.28 (the next update).
I also did some debugging but failed to find these crash bugs some people mention.

I can do all this literally before breakfast because its quiet and I'm not interrupted. The typical day at work involves maybe 100 interruptions and constant noise.
Yet one more reason why so called triple A games take 6 years to make...

Sunday, November 07, 2004


I am guilty (as are other indie developers) of reading far too much into far too little data. I am also guilty (and I find many 'scientific reports' guilty of this) of assuming a causal relationship where none exists (or at least may not exist).
Take the following statements:

My top selling game is the game at the top of my website
My top selling game is the only game of mine with professional artwork
My top selling game is the one that took longest to make
My top selling game is the one I would like to play most myself
My top selling game is the one with the biggest advertising budget so far
My top selling game is a space simulation game

Now all of these are true, but do they really help me work out what makes starship tycoon my best seller? I doubt it. Maybe taken collectively they can provide some clues, but I am of the impression that this whole 'selling games' malarkey is a lot more about gut instinct than hard data and marketing statistics.
I often hear it said that startopia didn't sell well purely because there was little marketing for it. Is this really true? What other factors were involved. Did it get released at the wrong time of year? Were the system reqs too high? Was it buggy?
There are so many factors to take into account when the sales of a game are concerned that I think its difficult to draw any real conclusions, especially when you only sell maybe 20-30 copies a month anyway.

I did an afternoons work on ST yesterday because Democracy was getting on top of me, I'll eventually release an update to ST with some improved graphics etc. Maybe once Democracy is in beta and awaiting feedback.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

twice I've written long blog posts and they have gone awol. Is blogger dying?
I bought Rollercoaster Tycoon 3
Valve refuse to let you cancel your HL2 pre-order and have taken your money (bastards)
Democracy is going well but I have some annoying new bugs to fix...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Got a copy of Star Wars Battlefront as a present. Its not good...
I found the game to be buggy, poorly executed, visualy lacking and... not finished.
Really obvious bugs and a lack of any real care means this game is just a quick licensed cash-in. the total opposite of Rollercoaster tycoon 3.
Been off on holiday for a few days, so I returned with enthusiasm for my games ;).
I haven't sold many online lately which is a worry, but I got an egames check, plus a royalty report from russia which shows that ST has been selling very well over there.
I have a lot of work to do to get democracy up to the standard I want it if it's going to make proper money....